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product design

03 Jul

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The most interesting indie R&D shops

July 3, 2014 | By |

Indie R&D Shops

 

For future reference, a short list of some of the more interesting independent companies, studios, design and dev shops that are engaged in invention, prototyping or research & development.

Some work mostly in software, some more with hardware or interfaces. Some more conceptual, some more product-oriented, some squarely in between.

  • Hubbub invent and build playful digital products. Berlin/Utrecht.
  • überproduct. Protyping and external R&D, in code or on paper. Berlin.
  • The Incredible Machine. Focus on connected devices/IoT. Rotterdam.
  • Near Future Lab. Thinking, making, design, development and research practice. (Several locations across California & Europe)
  • Relative Wave. Focus on software and visual stuff. San Francisco.
  • BERG London. Just included for historical reasons as they are not taking on client work after transitioning their business to build BERGCloud.
  • MCQN is all about the IoT. They build connected devices, for clients and themselves. Liverpool.
  • HardwareLabs.io turns hardware prototypes into finished products. London.

If you are aware of others that should be part of this list, please let me know.

 

Full disclosure: Many friends on this list. Alper of Hubbub and I share an office at the time of writing this. Hubbub, überproduct, The Incredible Machine and BERG London all have been involved as speakers at conferences of mine.

18 Jun

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Exciting current wearable projects

June 18, 2014 | By |

For future reference, a few current wearables projects and products I find particularly interesting, in no particular order:

  • Urban Armor is a collection of DIY wearable electronics that help women exercise control over their personal/public space. urbanarmor.org
  • Ringly is a line of connected rings that let you put your phone away and your mind at ease. It connects to your phone and sends you customized notifications through vibration and light. ringly.com
  • Moto360, Motorola’s Android-based smart watch, announced to be released this summer, is on the corporate end of the consumer gadget scale, but it’s ambitious and really nice looking, at least judging by the current renderings. Without a long-term commitment (let’s say 5+ years) that the software will be maintained and updated, smart watches are a slightly silly investment though.moto360.motorola.com
  • x.pose is a wearable data-driven sculpture that exposes a person’s skin as a real-time reflection of the data that the wearer is producing. Personally I’d prefer it didn’t try to be lingerie-ish but rather, dunno, a face mask or so, but it’s an interesting concept. xc-cd.com
  • wearui.co is a database of wearable UI concepts. wearui.co
  • The Dash, a wireless in-ear headphone set that also tracks vital signs, is Bragi’s first product. It’s very ambitious in scope and also one of the most successful Kickstarters from Europe. Bragi.com

10 Apr

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Smart appliances & consumer priorities

April 10, 2014 | By |

The other day I ordered a new washing machine. Our old one had broken down, mid-wash, and the cost for the repair would have been out of proportion. So I quickly checked a few reviews and settled on a new one, ordered it online to be delivered a couple days later and was done with it.

Yesterday it occurred to me – 9th of April is Internet of Things (IoT) Day, you see – that it never even crossed my mind to check for a smart, connected washing machine.

The Internet of Things is on my mind every single day in work and peer discussions. I have a conference about it (ThingsCon)! And still, not a single thought about a connected washing machine.

Habit? Maybe. Was I in a hurry to replace the old machine? Certainly. But mainly I think it’s a matter of priorities, of actual problems to be solved. It’s just not currently important enough as an issue.

As the smart folks over at BERGCloud have demonstrated, a smart washing machine would be very useful and nice, if done right:

 

Cloudwash: the connected washing machine from BERG on Vimeo.

 

But this got me thinking about solutionism, and how many IoT products currently are solutions looking for a problem, diluting a field that’s hard to grasp for consumers to begin with.

Also, I started a quick search for current connected washing machines. Turns out quite a few brands do offer smart machines right now. But I dare you, right now, to try to figure out details for, say, a Miele smart machine. It’s impossible to navigate and figure out online what’s going on. After some embedded, hard to read, PDF-ish magazines with praising connectivity in general, I gave up. It almost seems like they aren’t even trying to communicate their offers in the field.

Add the relative longevity of household appliances and connectivity isn’t such an easy sell.

My laundry, for better or worse, will be washed without smartphone for a while to come.

17 Mar

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The year of the connected device, but consumer IoT startups face big challenges

March 17, 2014 | By |

Over on the BoschSI Internet of Things blog, I contributed a short piece on the challenges that startups in the consumer IoT space are facing.

There is hardly any doubt that 2014 is the year when connected devices – particularly wearables – will go mainstream. Technology tradeshows and media alike are practically bursting at the seams with new products, concepts, and announcements for connected devices.

It’s worth noting that this is quite a special slice of the Internet of Things: this isn’t about the industrial internet, it’s about bringing the IoT to consumers. This is a very different story altogether, a segment with its own opportunities, challenges, and dynamics, one that exists at the intersection of various verticals – think home automation, wearables, connected mobility, personal analytics, health tech. It’s a space where the lines aren’t yet fully drawn, the terminology not yet fully evolved – which is usually a sign of a field that’s moving quickly and innovating. In other words, this is where some truly innovative and interesting stuff is happening.

Read the full text here.